CUMBERLAND - Before Sara Jane Rawlings of New Creek passed away last May, she went to extraordinary lengths to ensure her memory would live on through the good works and deeds of the Western Maryland Health System Pastoral Care Department.

CUMBERLAND - Before Sara Jane Rawlings of New Creek passed away last May, she went to extraordinary lengths to ensure her memory would live on through the good works and deeds of the Western Maryland Health System Pastoral Care Department.
An endowment gift of nearly $160,000 given to WMHS Pastoral Care, the first ever for the department, was initiated by the interactions Sara Jane experienced with Pastor Bruce McBride and the WMHS chaplains while she was a patient there.
    Sara Jane was an active member of the Rees Chapel United Methodist Church, serving as Sunday school teacher, member of the choir, Vacation Bible School teacher and member of the Administrative Council. She lived her faith, and though she never had children of her own, they held a special place in her heart.
    Rusty Kitzmiller, who serves as a WMHS chaplain, was especially close to Sara Jane. “She was like a member of our family,” Rusty said. “She became very close to my dad after each of their spouses passed away. He did a lot of work for her at her home and they were best friends. She didn’t have any kids of her own, so she really felt we were her kids. My family loved her so much. She treated my grandkids as her great grandkids.”
    As her health declined and stays at WMHS became more frequent, Sara Jane wanted to do something special to help the Pastoral Care Department in their ministry.
“When she was a patient here she observed how our department interacted with patients and prayed with them,” Rusty said. “She loved what we did. She always expressed concern that those with medical conditions would have the ability to have a chaplain available to pray for them.”
    Over the course of her time as a patient, Pastor McBride had several conversations with Sara Jane about the needs of his department. “She sought me out and wondered how she could help our ministry,” he said.
   That help came in a two-fold approach. Two-thirds of the endowment is to be used for general ministry and the needs of the department, while the other third is specifically designated to go toward helping children in need – thus affirming Sara Jane’s love for kids.
   Sara Jane’s endowment, like all gifts donated to WMHS, has been managed by the Western Maryland Health System Foundation.
“We are the keeper of funds like this, and we make sure the donor is remembered and recognized—If they choose—and we also make sure the funds are dispersed exactly as the donor asked that they be,” said Karen Johnson, WMHS Foundation chief development officer.
“There’s a process with every gift. There are checks and balances to ensure that Sara Jane’s wishes will be fulfilled.
    And her wishes are already being realized.
    More than 200 toys have been purchased and are being dispersed as needed throughout the Western Maryland Regional Medical Center. They are given to children in areas like the Emergency Department, Same Day Surgery and the Pediatric Observation Unit. Staff have access to the toys to give out as needed.
    “There are always children around who need to know that they are loved,” Pastor McBride said. “These little toys show we care and help take their mind off whatever they are going through.”
    As far as the other uses of the endowment, Pastor McBride said the gift will open a lot of doors for both patients and their families as well as staff.
“This allows us to have more resources,” he said. “We will be able to reach these folks who may be struggling in their lives and to offer the encouragement so many people need.”
    While gifts as specific as Sara Jane’s endowment are not typical, Johnson conveys that a donor has a myriad of options when it comes to enriching WMHS.
“They can be as direct or as broad as they’d like,” she said. “People can give any amount to any department or cause. We understand that most people aren’t able to give their entire estate. Even a percentage is significant and will touch many people. Truly, legacy gifts impact the future.”
    Sara Jane’s generous donation is already doing the good she hoped it would. “I think she’d be thrilled with this,” Rusty said. “She’s certainly smiling down from heaven.” Pastor McBride agreed and said, “for decades to come there will be resources here in her memory.” She was so blessed by this hospital that she wanted to make sure we knew the impact we had on her life.”